Portraits return to Wrest Park a century after sale
A stately home in Bedfordshire is preparing for the return of treasured family portraits that were sold 100 years ago.
The five paintings from the original collection at Wrest Park had become part of the estate of the late Duchess of Oxburghe, inherited by her great-nephew Bamber Gascoigne.
They will be re-hung after English Heritage bought them in 2015.
Each has been restored by conservation specialists.
The estate was first established as a residence for the de Grey family in the early 14th Century.
The paintings depict Henry Grey, the 1st Duke of Kent - who in the 18th Century laid out the formal woodland garden - plus his daughter, toddler son and a couple who were relatives of his wife.
English Heritage bought the works at auction for more than £90,000 at Sotheby's in May 2015.
They were among 650 lots to go under the hammer from the estate of Mary Innes-Ker, Duchess of Roxburghe, whose possessions were left to her nephew, broadcaster Bamber Gascoigne, after her death in July 2014.
Each painting will return to the wall on which they were originally displayed, with the portrait of the Duke returning to the library.
Dr Peter Moore, curator of collections at English Heritage, said the portraits are "the soul of this building".
"Their significance cannot be underestimated.
"They are crucial in animating this space for today's visitors and give a sense of what the house was like at the time," he said.
English Heritage conservator Rachel Turnbull said the paintings had structural and framing problems and much of the paintwork was in poor condition.
She said: "The most exciting paintings to work on are those in the worst condition because you see real change. It's fantastic to see them all repatriated."
They will be on public display from Wednesday.